Archive for July, 2014

a coal miner’s daughter heads home

angaleena presley

angaleena presley.

Growing up a true coal miner’s daughter in the Martin County community of Beauty, Angaleena Presley kept her eyes and ears open. Sure, there was music to take in. But what was within that music — the stories and the lyrical means she discovered of communicating them — fascinated her most.

“When I was growing up, I always felt like I was watching rather than being part of things. I was observing everything — from the smallest thing, like watching my mom break beans, to the big things, like my dad getting laid off from the mines,” said Presley, who is part of this weekend’s Red, White and Boom lineup. “Some part of me knew I was a storyteller, and that’s a big part of our culture: oral history.

“Really the only way a lot of our culture has survived has been through oral history. For some reason, I just got picked to be that person from my neck of the woods that was supposed to go out and spread the word, and hopefully empower people through our little stories of struggle and joy and sorrow and happiness. Whatever people could draw from those stories, it was just my job to tell them. I always knew that. And I’ll be telling them probably on every record I make.”

Having moved to Nashville 12 years ago, Presley connected with a publishing company and went in search of a country sound that proved elusive.

“When I first moved to Nashville, I was very green. I was right off the front porch in Kentucky,” said Presley, 37, who attended Eastern Kentucky University and briefly lived in Lexington. “I had no idea how anything worked. The publishing company that I was fortunate enough to find really fostered that. But when it came time to do demos of my songs, we never really found the right sound. Partly out of frustration and partly out of my own artistic battle that was going on in my head, I said, ‘Let’s forget it. I want to figure out what it is on my own.'”

Luckily, one country superstar who caught a listen to Presley’s work and liked what she heard was Miranda Lambert. Lambert invited Presley to join her and Ashley Monroe in a sideline vocal trio called Pistol Annies. Presley always wanted a solo career. But with Pistol Annies’ quick popularity, she developed something aspiring songwriters could only dream of before releasing a debut solo record: a fan base.

“One of the reasons I joined Pistol Annies was to get my own career off the ground,” Presley said. “I was in a town where there was a formula, but the formula didn’t fit what I was doing. I just couldn’t get any traction. Miranda didn’t care about the formula, either. She slipped through the cracks and became successful at doing honest, good music. I feel like now with bands like Pistol Annies and people like Kacey Musgraves and Miranda, I think the tables are finally starting to turn. Now I feel the formula is catching up with me.”

Presley views her debut album — American Middle Class, due out in October — as strongly autobiographical (“It’s the story of my life up to the point where I joined Pistol Annies,” she says). She sidetracked standard practice in the recording industry by co-producing the record with her husband, Jordan Powell. Still, there is plenty of high-profile harmony help on the record: Eastern Kentucky country star Patty Loveless and Emily Saliers, one-half of Indigo Girls (Presley will be touring with the pop-folk duo in August and September).

“Hanging out with Patty was like going to stay with one of my aunts or cousins. She is so much like home to me,” Presley said. “At one point she was making greens, soup beans and corn bread and singing this gospel song to herself in the kitchen as she was cooking. “We just connected in this Kentucky place that I don’t feel like a lot of people understand unless you have been there. And she is a coal miner’s daughter. We’re few and far between, so when we find each other, we just really connect. We know what that life was like and how many stories that go with it.”

Angaleena Presley performs July 5 as part of the two-day Red, White and Boom festival at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

in performance: john hiatt and the combo/therobert cray band

john hiatt

john hiatt.

Their respective careers were set in motion decades ago, so it’s understandable that a double-bill performance by John Hiatt and Robert Cray would carry equal levels of expectation and nostalgia. But last night at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati, both artists scored creative high points with either recent material or hearty reworkings of chestnut favorites.

The former attribute shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given how prolific both have been of late. Bluesman Cray has released seven albums of new music (excluding several fine concert recordings) since 1999. Veteran songsmith Hiatt has issued nine. He even seemed bemused last night by the fact. “Somehow,” he remarked, “they still let us makes records.”

Hiatt and his longrunning band The Combo – fortified by Louisiana drummer Kenneth Blevins, who has been playing with Hiatt on and off since his late ‘80s days with The Goners, and longtime Patty Griffin guitarist Doug Lancio – opened an 80 minute set by leaping head first into the deep pocket groove of My Business. Pulled from 2012’s Mystic Pinball album, the tune’s slyly lyrical sensibility, swampy rhythmic stride and plentiful, efficient guitar hooks defined the electric state of Hiatt’s current music. Such a fact was underscored by the coarse stride of Wind Don’t Have to Hurry (with Lancio adding brittle accents of banjo) from the forthcoming Terms of My Surrender. But the new record’s title tune veered off into the sort of light, antique jazz/minstrel plain Bob Dylan began exploring on Love & Theft.

There were oldies galore, too. The standout there was a retooled Cry Love that was set to an acoustic jamboree setting with Lancio taking the wheel on mandolin.

robert cray

robert cray.

Similarly, Cray’s performance was by no means anchored to the past. His new In My Soul bends generously to the ‘60s style pop, soul and R&B inspirations that have always been as prevalent in Cray’ music – especially in the spotless tone of his singing – as the obvious blues callings. As such, the guitarist devoted six songs during his 70 minute opening set to the album.

Some were coolly paced ballads fashioned as vehicles for the expert phrasing of Cray’s vocals. Into that column fell Fine Yesterday, a slice of summery but bittersweet Philly-style soul. What Would You Say later emphasized his ultra clean but never antiseptic guitarwork while the Richard Cousins instrumental Hip Tight Onions shot the spotlight over to keyboardist Dover Weinberg for a finger-popping, Booker T-flavored groove. Topping all of the new material, though, was Deep in My Soul, a desperate, anthemic affirmation where Cray sailed effortlessly back into the blues during a gorgeous coda solo.

The latter also held true for one of Cray’s breakthrough hits, Because of Me, which indulged in a leisurely but solemn slow fade solo that brought the quiet intensity of blues giant Otis Rush to mind.

Sadly, there were several inebriates in the Cincy crowd that used such a moment of chilled beauty to whoop, holler and needlessly call attention to themselves. Booze and social decorum – never shall they meet.

critic’s pick 329: bobby hutcherson, david sanborn and joey defrancesco, ‘enjoy the view’ and bobby hutcherson, ‘total eclipse’

enjoy the viewThe recordings vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson cut for Blue Note play out like a jazz encyclopedia. He relished the hard bop of the label’s ‘50s and ‘60s heyday but eventually experimented with post-bop, free-jazz and, increasingly, contemporary grooves of the late ‘60s up through 1977 when he defected from the label.

This summer, Hutcherson is back with Blue Note for recordings representing two different eras. The first is Enjoy the View, a new collaborative record cut with saxophone star David Sanborn and organist/trumpeter Joey DeFrancesco with strong support from drummer Billy Hart. The other is a vinyl-only reissue of the 1968 album Total Eclipse made at the height of Hutcherson’s post-bop period.

The near-simultaneous release of both recordings is part of a celebration honoring the Blue Note’s 75th anniversary. That makes the label two years older than Hutcherson himself.

Hutcherson has formed a number of strong saxophone alliances through the years. While the one with Sanborn is new, the two create a cool, immediate simpatico over the loose groove Hart designs on Delia (a Sanborn composition from 2003). The relationship between the vibraphonist and DeFrancesco is equally tasteful (the two were bandmates for roughly a decade), as evident by the pair’s calm, conversational turns on Don Is, a new DeFrancesco tune named after current Blue Note chieftain Don Was.

It should be noted that Sanborn, who has long ties to the smooth jazz world, checks his slicker profile at the door on Enjoy the View. For Hey Harold, a 1971 tune Hutcherson initially cut with tenor sax great Harold Land, Sanborn’s playing reflects a soulful immediacy that has always been on display in performance but appears less frequently in his recorded work.

total eclipseThe late Land lives again on the reissue of Total Eclipse. The recording was the first collaboration between the saxophonist and Hutcherson, who was in a period of considerable artistic transition at the time of these sessions.

While the opening Herzog is full of the swift, agile bop that defined his classic albums from earlier in the decade, the title tune is a luxurious but substantial post-bop work distinguished by two elegant solos presented one after the other by Land and Hutcherson with a young Chick Corea offering a third that is full of stoic grace.

Pompian, which places Land on flute and Hutcherson briefly on marimba, flirts with waltz patterns and subsequent dissonance but also hints at the more modern turns and exchanges the two would embark on in the future (especially on 1970’s exquisite San Francisco, a record that screams for a reissue).

Here, though, Total Eclipse becomes a beautiful though restless portrait of a young jazz spirit that shines with mature contentment on Enjoy the View.

Next entries »

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | About Our Ads | Copyright